Thursday, October 31, 2013

Middle East, Syrian Crisis

Print Media Journal: Middle East, Syrian Crisis
Introduction
The Syrian crisis has been going on for the last three years and has led to the loss of tens of thousands of lives while displacing a million more. The allegation of the use of chemical weapons by the Assad’s regime led to the swift action by the US and Russia to be able to seek for a quick solution to the political impasse in the country.

Summaries
Title: Syrian Officials Sound a Conciliatory Note toward the Opposition

Publication: New York Times Author(s): Anne Barnard Date: October 6, 2013

The article by Barnard (2013) carried in the New York Times notes that the Syrian government realized that they had made massive mistakes that led to the escalation of the crisis that was faced in the country. Bashar al-Assad and the other officials of the country for instance the Deputy Prime Minister, Qadri Jamil, noted that such mistakes were made and thus the crisis can be blamed both on the government as well as the rebels. The paper notes that the admission by the Assad’s regime is an about turn from the government’s position that the civil war was an international conspiracy by the terrorists. Even though Assad accepted some of the blame for the situation that was faced in the country, Assad ruled out the possibility of the negotiation with the armed opposition that is found in the country. The article notes that there are elements from both the Syrian government and the opposition who are opposed to the resolution of the crisis in the country.

The reporting according to me was not fair or balanced at all. Majority of the views that are used to justify the point that the government is sounding conciliatory does not hold in many of the cases. The above point of view is taken due to the nature of the people who were interviewed to be able to gather the reports. Even though Assad acknowledges his government is partly to blame for the crisis that is found in the country, he does not state the exact mistakes that were committed by the government. For conciliation to take place, it is important that the given individual owns up to his mistakes and then allow for the resolution of the crisis. In the paper, Assad’s stand seems to harden rather than soften as the headline of the article seems to suggest. Secondly, the reporting is not balanced due to the fact that an interview with a member of the opposition forms the bulk of the conclusions that are reached by the article. Qadri Jamil is a member of the opposition party that was absorbed into the government thus the views that he expresses are not those of the government.

In the real sense, the government has stated that they will not negotiate with the armed rebels and the opposition groups. The paper clearly points out that Mr. Qadri Jamil has no to little authority in the policy decision making in the country. The views by Jamil are construed to be subjective due to the nature of his standing, as a member of the opposition that is pushing for the reforms in the country, rather than objective assessments of the situation at hand. The only objective assessment that can be noted is when he stated that “There are certain segments inside the regime, similar to other segments inside the opposition, who don’t want to have this political solution…This is either because of narrow-minded mentalities or because they have turned into merchants of the crisis” (Barnard, 2013, para. 10). Title: Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons begins: mission Publication: Reuters

Author(s): Mariam Karouny Date: Oct 6, 2013

The article notes that the destruction of the chemical weapons would rob Assad of his weapon that is most feared but would avert the possibility of a military strike by the US. The article notes that the undertaking is taking place amidst the civil war that pits Assad against the majorly Sunni Muslim opposition and rebels. The article notes the cooperation of the Syrians as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) notes that the actual destruction of the weapons is undertaken by the Syrians. The article notes that Assad still has the capacity to defeat the rebels even after the complete destruction of the chemical weapons. Russia and the US are pushing for negotiations to resolve the conflicts in the country but Assad maintains the position that he will not negotiate with the rebels until they lay down their arms. The opposition on the other hand is focused on forming a transitional government that excludes Assad and all his supporters.

The US and the other western countries such as the UK have argued that there is a UN report that seems to implicate the Assad’s regime for the chemical attack on the people. The article notes that Russia and the West are pushing for a resettlement of the conflict through dialogue between Assad and the opposition forces that are found in the country. There is also some fighting that has been reported in the article especially in the small village of al-Mitras that has been supportive of the rebels to oust the four decade autocratic rule of Assad.

The reporting in the article is fair and balanced due to a number of elements. First, majority of the elements that are found in the article are objective facts that have been proven and can be seen to have taken place. Numerous organizational including the OPCW that are involved in the supervision and the inspection of the destruction of the chemical weapons are in agreement with the fact that the process of the destruction of the chemicals has begun in Syria. The article also notes clearly that Assad’s government is supportive of the destruction of the chemicals and they have not been contravention of any of the agreements that are faced. The article also reports the objective facts that are taking place for instance the fighting between the government loyal forces and the rebel forces that are found in the country. The paper clearly reiterates the position of Assad. Assad argued that he would not negotiate with an armed opposition. All the oppositions the world over do not have armies or fighters on the ground. Assad’s view is thus correct and the article did well to be able to reiterate the concerns that he had.

The paper gives a balanced view as the views of Assad are provided while also significantly airing the views of the opposition groups that are found in the country. Title: Experts begin dismantling Syrian chemical program Publication: Associated Press Author(s): Ryan Lucas Date: Oct 6, 2013

The article notes that the disarmament experts has started the task of the elimination of the chemical weapons stockpiles in Syria; a task that would be completed by Mid02014. The article notes that there some challenges that will be faced by the mission to be able to destroy the chemical weapons for instance in terms of the tough deadlines (9 months), and the bloody civil war that is being found in the country. The process of the destruction and the disabling of the weapons began in the country. The article notes that the actual people who are involved in the cutting and the destruction of the weapons are the Syrians while the inspectors from OPCW are involved in the monitoring as well as the verification that in deep the weapons were destroyed. Due to the sensitivity of the process, the article does not disclose where the process of the destruction of the weapons is currently being undertaken. It is also noted the mission targets to destroy approximately 1000 tons of stockpile and the facilities that were used to make the weapons. The article also gives the history of the chemical weapons program that was started by Assad.

The article’s reporting is fair and balanced as so far as the goal of informing the readers is concerned. The paper does not make use of wild allegations whose proof is not stated. In the cases, where figures are provided, the article uses the conservative figures that have been released by the different aid agencies as well as the UN bodies. The above is geared towards maintaining the objectivity of the reporting while helping to inform the readers about the gravity of the situation at hand. The fairness of the reporting can also be noted in the fact that the article does not at any instance state that Assad’s regime attacked civilians in Damascus with chemical weapons even though this view has been floated around the media cycles for a long period of time.
The article also provides the history of the chemical weapons program of the country as well as the actions that have been undertaken by the country in the last couple of years. A fact that is also found in the article that has been neglected by majority of the media reports about Syria is the reason why the Assad’s regime resorted to the development of chemical weapons. Assad stated that the action was to “fill the technical gap in the traditional weapons between Syria and Israel” (Lucas, 2013, para. 16). The article is also fair as it clearly notes that the actual people who are involved in the cutting and the destruction of the weapons are the Syrians while the inspectors from OPCW are involved in the monitoring as well as the verification that in deep the weapons were destroyed. This therefore seems to discredit the fact that the Assad’s government is just buying time and may not be involved in the actual destruction of the chemical stockpiles that are found in the country.

Title: International monitors begin to destroy Syria’s chemical weapons equipment Publication: The Washington Post Author(s): Loveday Morris Date: October 7, 2013

The Washington Post article by Morris (2013) noted that the first step towards the destruction of the stockpiles of chemical weapons of the Assad regime started through the deployment of the personnel whose actions would be overseen by the international monitors. The article quotes the UN as having stated that the destruction of the aerial bombs, the mixing equipment and the missile warheads were undertaken by Syrian teams in close supervision of the experts from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (Morris, 2013). The article notes some challenges for instance the security and the logistical challenges due to the ongoing civil war and the tight timetable as the stockpiles need to be destroyed in a span of 9 months beginning with November, 2013. The US Secretary of State, John F. Kerry, noted that the process is moving on smoothly with Syrian compliance and Russian cooperation. The article also states the positions of the two main world powers; the US and Russia as Russia supports the Assad’s government while the US supports the opposition rebels. The article also notes that Syria handed over their chemical weapons programs to the OPCW thus averting the prospects of the military strikes by the Obama’s administration. The article also notes that Syria was ready for the US strikes that would result from the alleged used of the chemical weapons on the population in the suburbs of Damascus.

The article is fair and balanced as it gives all the points of view and all the positions that are held. The United Nations is an organization that focuses on the world peace thus the views that are expressed by the UN are those that support the peace and the stability of Syria. The arrival of the supervisors from OPCW and the start of the destruction of the stockpiles of the chemical weapons in Syria are objectively represented. The article is also objective in that it lays the blame of the security and the logistical challenges that may be faced on the Syrian civil war rather than on the action of any one party that is involved in the conflict for instance Assad or the rebel opposition that is found in the country. The position of Assad with regards to the negotiations with the rebels is also clearly represented as they are the views of the president of Syria. The Syrian president argues that he will not be involved in the discussions with the rebels unless they lay down the arms.

The article is also balance since it states both the positive and the negative elements of the negotiations that are taking place in the country. The article notes that even though Assad has supported and has been in compliance with the weapons destruction programs that are being undertaken in the country, there are some elements that he is not in agreement with for instance the unconditional negotiations with the rebels who are found in the country. The article provides the reasons why Assad would not be involved in the negotiations with the armed opposition rebels in the country as that would amount to the support for two centers of power in the country.

Title: Destruction of Syria’s Chemical Weapons Begins, U.N. Says Publication: CNN Author(s): CNN Staff Date: October 7, 2013

The article reports that the Syrians started the process of the destruction of the chemical weapons on Sunday (October 6, 2013). The effort of the destruction was overseen by the international team that was charged with the oversight of the destruction. The article notes that equipment that was targeted for the destruction to include the “…missile warheads, aerial bombs and mixing and filling equipment” (CNN, 2013, para. 2). The OCPW team also noted that the Syrian personnel are using angle grinders and cutting torches to be able to disable or destroy the range of the items that were due for the destruction. There are over 50 sites where the destruction will be undertaken. These sites are mainly the research centers and the facilities. The article quotes a Syrian general who defected as noting that Assad will never give up the stockpile of the chemical weapons. The defected general also made some allegations that are also contained in the article. First, is that he was ordered to use chemical agents on the population but he refused to do that instead changing them with non-toxic agents. Secondly, he also alleged that the regime of Assad was transferring the chemical weapons to Iraq and Lebanon. This allegation is also supported by the commander of the Free Syrian Army, an opposition group that is also involved in the Syrian conflict that has claimed many lives in the past three years.
The article is not balanced and fair in a number of instances. First, the defected general’s allegations without any form of proof cannot be taken and reported as objective truth as is the case with the article. The general is an individual who is disgruntled with the government and in many cases is driven with the motive to see the government of Assad routed out of power by the combined forces of the US and the US-backed opposition forces that are involved in the Syrian civil war. Secondly, there is also the contradiction in the statements of the defected general. In one statement he noted that “The locations of most of the scientific research centers in Syria and the storage facilities are known and under surveillance, thus, he will give up those centers and facilities for sure without lying” (CNN, 2013, para. 7) and in another he said that the Assad’s regime was transferring the chemical weapons that were found in the country to some secret locations as well as Lebanon and Iraq. To a casual observer, such allegations cannot hold sway as in one instance there is complete ‘surveillance’ while in the other there is the secret ‘transfer’ of the chemical weapons. The two individuals who make the allegations are known as anti-regime forces thus there word cannot be trusted as objective truth.
The writer of the article did not explore further to be able to completely ascertain that it deed such acts were being carried out by the Assad government. The UN or even the US has not supported such allegations either in this article or anywhere else. What I know from the other news sources is that the US has lauded the cooperation from Syria.
Comparisons

The Reuters article by Karouny (2013) “Destruction of Syrian chemical weapons begins: mission” seems to have the biggest impact on the Syrian crisis. The articles gives an objective assessment of the situation in Syria as well as provide the balanced coverage of both the actions of the rebels, the arms inspectors and the Syrian workers who are involved in the destruction of the chemical stockpiles that are found in the country. The article also gives the official position of the OPCW with regards to the destruction.